Abby, Abram, Aggy and Amy. Susan, Tucker and William.
These are just seven of the names of the 607 enslaved people Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, owned.
“Paradox of Liberty: Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello,” a new traveling exhibit at the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia, opens with a powerful statement.
Mary Lauderdale, visitor services manager for the museum, said she likes to start the exhibit at Room 607: a room bearing the names of the 607 men, women and children whom Jefferson owned throughout his lifetime.
A statue of the Founding Father is placed before the wall, staring at the names.
“I stand here and think, ‘Wow,’ ” Lauderdale said. “I feel like the way that he’s placed, he’s conflicted. And that’s what this exhibition is about.”
Monticello, Jefferson’s beautiful home just outside of Charlottesville, has been called a neoclassical masterpiece in the Palladian style.
“Jefferson was extremely accomplished, but his life wouldn’t have been what it was, the Declaration of Independence wouldn’t have been what it was, without the enslaved people who made his life possible,” said Gayle Jessup White, Monticello’s community engagement officer. “For years, the very names of the people he enslaved were lost, buried, ignored or marginalized.”
“That’s the paradox of it. Jefferson wrote that all men are created equal. But he owned scores of people. It’s very contradictory,” White added.
The traveling exhibit, which was created by Monticello for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History & Culture, has been touring since 2012 and been seen by more than 1.5 million people. And now it’s finally in Richmond.
The exhibit tells the stories of six enslaved families who helped build and maintain Monticello, including an illuminating portrait of Sally Hemings.
At age 14, she traveled to London and eventually to Paris where Jefferson, age 44 at the time, was serving as the United States minister to France. There was no slavery in France and Hemings could have stayed on as a free woman.
But after two years, Jefferson persuaded her to return to Monticello with the promise of “extraordinary privileges” and that he would free her unborn children.
According to the exhibit, she returned to Virginia where, shortly afterward, she gave birth to her first child.
In 1998, a DNA study was released that suggested Jefferson fathered at least one of Hemings’ children, recognizing a controversy that had raged for more than two centuries.
In 2000, after a long-standing history of avoiding the mention of Hemings’ name, Monticello released the findings of its investigation that found Jefferson had six children with Hemings. Four of those children survived into adulthood.
In the exhibit at Richmond’s Black History Museum, a short video tells the life story of Hemings, as told by her son Madison. Although there are no images of Hemings, the exhibit creates a vivid picture of her with a replica dress that she could have worn, as well as several of her belongings.
The exhibit also explores the lives of the Gillette family, the Granger family, the Herns and the Hubbards. Some were skilled woodworkers or made nails, while others cooked meals for Jefferson in the house. Their stories — their hopes and wishes, their marriages and children — are told in the exhibit.
More than 300 artifacts are included in the exhibit, including everyday tools like a toothbrush, a comb, toys and marbles.
The items “humanize these people. ... It’s about those people and their families. Not Jefferson, but the people who worked and were enslaved by him,” said Monticello’s White.
White herself is a direct descendant of Jefferson and is related to the Hemingses and the Hubbards.
When Jefferson died in 1826, he was deeply in debt. His executors were forced to sell the land, the house, and the 130 men, women and children he owned as slaves.
Only seven were spared, including two of Sally Hemings’ children. Jefferson had freed Hemings’ other two surviving children earlier.
Sally Hemings was never officially freed by Thomas Jefferson. She was permitted to leave by his daughter not long after Jefferson’s death in 1826.
Jim Schroeder’s days seemed to contain more than the standard 24 hours, considering all that he routinely accomplished as a dentist, a leader and volunteer for various organizations, an elected official — basically as someone who always seemed to have time for others.
In reality, he was, of course, constrained by the same 24 as the rest of us. He just seemed to make better use of them.
Some of that might have stemmed from being diagnosed, at age 21, with juvenile diabetes, a disease that years ago was expected to shave decades off your life.
“He didn’t think he would make 50,” said Jan Schroeder, his wife.
Then about 15 years ago while bicycling home from work, he was hit by a truck. He survived — and continued along his well-established path of helping others through his dentistry, his generosity and his counsel, all fueled with a deeply felt urgency in life “to live it well because your days are numbered, as it is for all of us,” Jan Schroeder said. “He just had that awareness.”
He also had, as his wife said, “a soft heart.”
Dr. James R. Schroeder’s time here ran out on Jan. 11, nine months after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He would have turned 71 on Jan. 21. In many ways, though, he and his work live on.
A Richmond resident and a longtime dentist, Schroeder was well-known for his good works. In 1991, he received a Times-Dispatch Community Service Award largely for his work at CrossOver Healthcare Ministry, an organization that helps people in need and that he helped start. In 2009, he was honored as a Richmond History Maker, again for his connection to CrossOver, which he explained at the time had been started as an opportunity for “people who have received such gifts as dentistry or medicine … to turn around and share those with those less fortunate.”
Schroeder also developed a reputation for going out of his way to treat patients with disabilities, an underserved population when it comes to dental care. For many years, Schroeder’s office has been “the go-to practice” for referring people with disabilities seeking dental care, said Linda G. Simon, executive director of the Richmond Dental Society. Patients came from all over Virginia.
“They were at the forefront of recognizing that need and then filling the gap,” Simon said.
Said his friend Terry Dickinson, “He is the definition of what the word ‘humanity’ stands for.”
Dickinson knew Schroeder well. He is founder and director of the Mission of Mercy (MOM) program with the Virginia Dental Association, which has provided dental care for low-income Virginians by way of mobile clinics across the state. In the 20 years since its founding, MOM has served more than 65,000 patients and been replicated in 31 other states. Schroeder was there at the beginning, Dickinson said.
“Jim was one of the early adopters of [MOM] as he saw the immense need for dental care, particularly in the coalfields and other rural and remote areas,” said Dickinson, retired executive director of the Virginia Dental Association. “I didn’t have to explain what we were trying to do with that project to him. He just wanted to know what he could do to help.”
Schroeder volunteered to perform dental work, but also served as an adviser and counselor to Dickinson, helping to shape the project into what it is today. Dickinson wrote in an email that both men “always believed that God put us in each other’s path to listen, to support and care about what he wanted from us.”
Dickinson also knew Schroeder from their work at The Virginia Home, a residence for people with irreversible physical disabilities.
“Not only did Dr. Schroeder show up to provide on-site dental care, he showed up to give,” says William E. Coleman III, vice president and COO of The Virginia Home. “He gave his time, talents and friendship to our residents and staff.”
Locally, Schroeder also did work for The Daily Planet and the Salvation Army. He also traveled far afield on mission trips to places such as Jamaica and Guatemala to treat patients.
Somehow he also found time to serve a four-year appointment to the Virginia State Board of Health and for more than 13 years on the Chesterfield County School Board as the Midlothian representative, and, when back surgery forced him to stop working as a dentist on a daily basis, he turned his attention to a consulting firm he founded called Leadership by Design.
“In my dad’s words … to be effective you have to be able to wear a number of hats,” said Emily Schroeder Rutsis, one of his six children.
With good humor and unquestioned sincerity, he managed to lend an ear for listening or to offer advice or simply to eat lunch most days with his dental partners to chat about what was going on in their lives.
“He was a friend,” said Al Stenger, one of his dental partners, who described for me why he went to work with Schroeder. “I knew he was a strong man of faith and had a great reputation, high ethics, did good dentistry and was well-loved. Why wouldn’t you want to be part of that?”
Schroeder served on the adjunct faculty at the VCU School of Dentistry for almost 40 years. There he covered issues such as the ethical practice of dentistry and how to manage a practice to reflect those values, which he taught with his friend Dickinson.
“Even though I spoke with him, he clearly was the star to those dental students,” Dickinson said. “Ask them who they remember the most and who was a major influence in their dental school career. It would be Dr. Schroeder. He left behind so much knowledge and gave so much hope to the students he came into contact with.”
Schroeder also enjoyed teaching about treating patients with disabilities, and he wanted his students to be comfortable caring for that population after they graduated. Dickinson recalled how Schroeder suggested starting a rotation for senior dental students to work at The Virginia Home and gain firsthand experience.
“Think of it as a responsibility and honor to be able to treat them,” Dickinson recalled Schroeder saying.
While in dental school, Schroeder spent a summer working at what is now the Central Virginia Training Center in Lynchburg, where he treated people with intellectual disabilities. He considered the experience formative, his family says. As a result, he always encouraged them to help underserved populations. Emphasis on “encouraged,” which was how he operated in all that he did.
“Jim was getting ready to graduate from college, and he did not have a plan for what the next step was,” Jan Schroeder said of her husband of almost 50 years. “A professor said to him, ‘Have you ever thought about medicine or dentistry?’ Jim said, ‘Not really.’ He was a biology major, and the professor said, ‘You could. I know you could.’ ”
And he did.
“So Jim saw how impactful one little comment from somebody can be,” she said. “He was always looking to be an encouragement to anyone that needed that little nudge … because one comment from a professor changed his life.”
Rutsis felt that encouragement by the example her father set. She became a dentist, but not because her dad told her to.
“If anything, he might have pushed me away from it,” said Rutsis, who lives in Florida. “My dad came home from work happy every day. He definitely modeled loving his profession and loving having the ability to help people. He was the ultimate testament to ‘show, don’t tell.’ ”
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Virginia would open the door for state-regulated slot machines under a new legislative proposal that would end the legal distinction between games of skill and chance.
Sen. Jeremy McPike, D-Prince William, chairman of a Senate subcommittee on gaming, introduced a new proposal on Thursday that would turn the debate over electronic gaming machines on its head.
The proposal would legalize “video gaming terminals” in restaurants licensed by the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority, as well as truck stops and — under an amendment insisted upon by the subcommittee — convenience stores.
The machines would be certified and inspected by the Virginia Lottery, which would directly monitor their sales, subject to a 36% tax, with the revenues primarily dedicated to state support of education and a portion for local government.
In an interview after the three-hour meeting on a variety of gaming issues, McPike said he has “an agnostic approach” to the distinction between legal games of skill and illegal games of chance that has defined an often-bitter debate over thousands of unregulated gaming devices that the state blames for hurting lottery profits.
“I’m done with it,” he said. “I don’t care.”
Instead, McPike proposed a plan that was embraced by a new coalition of “video gaming terminal” companies, including Las Vegas-based Golden Entertainment, that want to bring slot machines to Virginia and a framework for regulating them.
“Whatever you call it, you can’t escape the regulatory process,” said Richmond lawyer Stephen Baril, who represents Golden and four other gaming companies.
In their world, he said, distinguishing between games of skill and chance “is like believing in the tooth fairy.”
In contrast, the lead lobbyist for Queen of Virginia Skill & Entertainment insisted that the roughly 7,500 machines it has installed across the state operate by skill, with the opportunity for players to win every game if they know how.
“We’re talking about real money to the state without putting gambling devices in every store and restaurant,” said Tom Lisk, who represents the company’s parent, Pace-O-Matic.
Both approaches offer the state hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue to offset losses by the Virginia Lottery, but the slot machine coalition said McPike’s proposal would generate $450 million in revenue to the state by the third year of operation through a 33% state tax and a 3% tax for the locality in which the games operate.
The physically weary subcommittee did not endorse any of four proposed bills for regulating what have become known as “gray machines” because of ambiguity over whether they are legal under current state law, which allows games of skill.
“It is a true gray area,” said Henrico Police Chief Humberto Cardounel, who endorsed McPike’s proposal as a way to make enforcement easier for police departments and sheriff’s offices.
In the House of Delegates, Del. Lamont Bagby, D-Henrico, has proposed legislation on behalf of Gov. Ralph Northam to regulate the machines, tax them at 35% of gross profits, and use almost all of the money for public education.
Sen. Monty Mason, D-Williamsburg, said he thought the Senate was heading down a similar path, but after hearing McPike’s proposal, “it seems like we’re launching a spaceship here.”
The subcommittee agreed to advance McPike’s bill and three other proposals for regulating and taxing electronic gaming devices without recommendation to the full Senate Committee on General Laws and Technology.
Ultimately, however, the final legislation is “going to be crafted” by the Senate Finance Committee, said Sen. Tommy Norment, R-James City, a former co-chairman of the committee.
The subcommittee rejected Norment’s proposal to ban the electronic gaming devices entirely, but he also has a proposal for their regulation that will go before the full committee next week. The committee also will consider similar regulatory approaches proposed by Senate Finance Chairwoman Janet Howell, D-Fairfax, and Sen. Frank Ruff, R-Mecklenburg, who led the subcommittee while McPike presented his bill.
Earlier, the subcommittee endorsed bills that would:
The decision to allow online sales of lottery tickets, using a system that would guard against use by minors, raised concerns for some retailers, especially 7-Eleven stores.
Chuck Duvall, a lobbyist for 7-Eleven, said allowing the lottery to sell tickets online would hurt the retail giant by reducing foot traffic and discretionary purchases in the 740 stores it operates in Virginia.
“You’re putting the burden of their success on us,” Duvall said.
However, Norment, who sponsored one of the bills to allow lottery sales online, said the lottery operates in 4,500 retail outlets in addition to those owned by 7-Eleven. Online sales would allow the state lottery to “operate in the modern marketplace” with greater safeguards against underage purchases than store vending machines.
“Welcome to the 21st century,” he said.
Nathan Burrell, the influential former superintendent of the James River Park System, is stepping down from Richmond’s Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities Department after 17 years.
Burrell took over as superintendent of James River Park in 2013 after park manager Ralph White retired, serving as interim manager for a few months. In 2018, he was promoted to facilities maintenance manager of the city parks department.
In an email, Burrell said that he received an unsolicited offer from Gov. Ralph Northam to serve as a deputy director with the Department of Conservation and Recreation. His last day with the city is Jan. 29.
He said he accepted the new job “with a heavy heart and gratitude.”
Burrell said that over the past 17 years, he had witnessed Richmond change from a “capital of the South” mentality to a city that sees itself as one of the best places to live, work and play in the nation, which is related to enjoying and preserving James River Park.
He mentioned several improvements at the park during his time, including “the development of over 40 miles of single track trails, multiple river access points, the development of a mountain bike skills course, legitimization and expansion of a bike jump park, increased operational and capital funding for James River Park System and ... a master plan to guide and further protect it into the future.”
The park welcomes nearly 2 million visitors a year, according to Burrell’s findings from using electronic counting devices.
A native of eastern Virginia, Burrell holds a degree in parks and recreation management, with a minor in environmental studies, from Virginia Commonwealth University. He began at the park as a summer intern in 2002, took a seasonal post after graduation in winter 2003 and grew into larger roles.
Mike Burton will be acting maintenance and operations superintendent for the parks department’s Southern Division, which oversees the James River Park System, all parks south of the river, as well as the trails and greenway division.